For someone who describes herself as “lazy”, Elisabeth Moss sure does keep busy. By the end of 2015, she’ll have four feature films under her belt — from the Polanski-infused psychodrama Queen of Earth to Ben Wheatley’s sprawling adaptation of a J.G. Ballard novel, High-Rise. And this does not even account for her work in Mad Men as Peggy Olson, a character so beloved that ardent fans of the AMC drama created this Twitter account in her honor. When we spoke with Moss by phone last week, she was eager to discuss her latest performance in Truth, the fortuitous nature of Hollywood, and why cataloguing your youth is probably a bad idea.
Last time we spoke you were shooting this movie [Truth] in Australia.
That’s so funny. Yeah, that was a year ago because we started filming this October 6th.
And you were scared about working with Cate Blanchett.
Oh god. Yes, of course.
So how did you do?
I did great! She’s such a lovely person. You’d have to be a monster to not get along with her. She’s really kind and funny and intelligent. You know when you meet your idols you’re never sure if it’s going to be what you except or what you want them to be? She exceeded all my expectations.
It’s always a terrifying experience when you meet someone you admire.
Of course. She’s exactly what you want her to be, but then kind of better … because she’s real.
Do you think the profession of journalism is dying?
Times have changed, and everything is changing — whether it’s television, film, or journalism. So I think that the media must definitely change, and there’s obviously the 24 hour news cycle, which sometimes is just a 60 second news cycle.
How has your profession changed?
When I started Mad Men there wasn’t really any Twitter. If there was, it was brand new. I remember when we got our first computer in the house. I remember not having a cellphone. I’m part of the generation that crosses the divide between the “no internet age” to where we are now. Me and my friends talk about it because we remember both very clearly. We were old enough to remember not having those things. Old enough to be growing into adults without social media, and now I am an adult in a different world.
I’m not so sure growing up in the age of social media is a good thing.
I agree. I’m very glad I didn’t grow up with that. I can’t speak for kids these days, and how they feel about it, but I’m personally glad my teens and 20s were not able to be put on Instagram. [laughs] I think that’s for the best.
I can’t imagine my parents would’ve wanted their college days to be documented.
No! Those times where you’re growing up and finding yourself and making mistakes … that should all be done as privately as possible. And it’s not now. In New York, we used to have to go to this place called “Web Zone” in the East Village and that’s where you would go to check your email and to check your Friendster. You’d have to go to a computer to check your Facebook. And that was not that long ago. I was like 20 when we were doing that. A lot has changed.
It just sounds like ancient history.
It sounds so ancient, and I was a fully cognizant human being when this was happening. [laughs]
So you’ve been with this story, and thinking about journalism for a while now. Has it changed how you approach journalists?
I think I’ve always had a healthy dose of cynicism when it’s come to the Internet and what you read on the blogosphere. I check Wikipedia for my facts just as much as anyone else does. But I’m also aware that those facts are possibly not facts at all. It did give me a greater respect for journalists who are doing the job they’re supposed to do. Somebody like Dan, who is so old school and more rare now than it was.
It’s healthy to have that skepticism.
There are so many sides to a story. These people [on 60 Minutes] would research these stories for weeks and months, and fully investigate it. You’d have to have a certain amount of facts to a release story, and that’s the way I think it should be. I disapprove of this whole “the first person to get the story” throws it on television because they want to be first.
But what does it say about people that they believe the first thing they hear?
You know, people are human. I’m certainly not perfect. There are a lot of smart people out there who are willing to look at different sides of the story. It’s a great sign that a book like this [Truth] did so well and that a film like this can come out.
Toward the end of the film, the central character [played by Blanchett] is asked to compromise her journalistic integrity. Have you ever been in a similar situation — where you may have to sacrifice your principles?
No, I haven’t. I think that my job is much sillier than being an investigative journalist. I do feel that I have a certain responsibility to tell the truth, but I also don’t think what I do is comparable to what Dan Rather does. I’m just a person who has got very lucky to do what they love: pretending all the time and make money at it.
Do you really believe it’s luck?
There are so many factors that go into a career. Sometimes a little bit of luck is in there. I like to think that the best man always gets the job. I do think you have to be good in order to get something.
You’re the first actor/actress that I’ve spoken to that calls their job “silly”.
[laughs] Really? That’s remarkable. I feel like they should all be saying that. I love it. I think it’s super fun and it matters to me. It’s my favorite thing to do, but I’m not going to compare it to being a journalist or a doctor, somebody that actually helps people.
Can you imagine doing anything else?
To be honest, I can’t. I’m not that good at anything else. This is definitely the thing that I’m best at. I don’t really have a lot of other skills, so this is going to have to be it for me.
Oh c’mon. You’re selling yourself short.
[laughs] I suppose I could go learn to do something else, but I like this the most. And I have a very lazy nature as well.
A lazy nature?
Yes, I enjoy sleeping a lot. I don’t like getting up in the morning, and I prefer to not be doing anything most of the time. I have to really love what I do in order to do it.
Have you ever taken a role that you didn’t love?
A couple of things early on, just to work. I suppose I’ve done things that I’ve liked less than other things. Somehow I’ve managed to have a pretty good head about it. Now, I do things that make me want to get out of bed in the morning.